While most of the country is under snow from the recent cold snap, it is a beautiful day in the low 60s here in Los Angeles, sandwiched between a couple of (unfortunately rare) late season rain storms. In other words, it is a perfect day to find a neighborhood to explore, getting to know my home better. Today, that means the Arts District.
The Arts District is technically part of downtown Los Angeles, combining with other areas (we have a Garment District, Jewelry District, and Flower District) to fill the space between the big buildings of “actual” downtown and the Los Angeles River, across which sits Boyle Heights. The Arts District is the farthest east of these, located just west of the river and the adjacent rail tracks. The area was once fully industrial, owing to those very tracks, with companies like Nabisco having offices and warehouses here.
By the middle of the twentieth century, many of the warehouses were empty, and over the next couple decades, artists who were struggling to pay rent in central downtown moved in, attracted to the low prices and large warehouse spaces that could easily be converted to studios. And so the Arts District was born. Today, it is one of the most up-and-coming parts of Los Angeles, home to hip bars and cafes, trendy restaurants, new apartments and condos, and ever-present art galleries.
My day begins with coffee. The Arts District has several local roasters, but I prefer Stumptown. Good coffee, a simple space, friendly staff, and the knowledge I’m supporting a small local business all play into that decision. It is one I do not regret in the least.
Coffee in hand, it is time for the true reason that the Arts District was my chosen destination today. With the train tracks and the Los Angeles River lying just east (and the 101 Freeway just past that), there are four bridges crossing that span. One, the Sixth Street Viaduct, is brand new, having just opened in 2022 to much fanfare. It has a cool design, wide sidewalks and bike lanes, and lovely vistas of downtown. But most importantly, it is a project that A was involved with as part of the environmental impact team, and this is her first chance to cross it. So we do, all the way to Boyle Heights, there to turn around and walk back, by which time our coffees are finished and it is time to continue our exploration.
After walking amongst the warehouses for a bit, it is time for lunch. In LA, lunch is synonymous with tacos, as the city has probably the best such offerings outside of Mexico. (El Paso is a close second.) While discussions of “best taco in Los Angeles” are bound to start a fight, Guerrilla Tacos is at or near the top of many lists. Originally a cart, then a truck, Guerrilla is now a brick and mortar restaurant here in the Arts District with six different artisan tacos to choose from. We have one of each, and both agree that the vegetarian sunchoke taco is the best. (There is also a sweet potato offering, so vegetarians can rejoice in having some options.)
Now it is time for some art. Galleries in the Arts District range from tiny houses of ceramics to huge semi-museums. There is ArtShare LA, the Institute of Contemporary Art, and my choice for the day, Hauser and Wirth, just to mention a few of the better known ones. Hauser and Wirth contains multiple gallery spaces, as well as a large shop, a restaurant (Manuela), and some outdoor areas, one of which has live chickens. Today, one of the galleries had a – to me – weird modern performance-esque display, one had some terrific photography, and a third contained art based on Alabama quilters.
If you want to take a break for a drink, the Arts District has you covered. Try either Angel City or Arts District Brewing, or one of the distilleries. If you are here at night, the city’s top bar is currently Death and Co., which is basically across the street from Hauser and Wirth.
Dinner can be casual or fancy, and tonight it is the latter. Bavel is one of my favorites, and Bestia gets great reviews, but I opt for Girl and the Goat, one of chef Stephanie Izard’s LA restaurants. The goat mousse is seriously to die for, although everything was spectacular, including both the service and the outdoor patio.
Los Angeles is huge, and it is diverse, with each neighborhood having its own feel. The Arts District makes an incredible area to spend a day, from the great food to the art scene to the historic warehouses.
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